IBM Aims To Cut Partner Costs With New Midmarket Programs

The Business Partner Agreement for Collaborative Services, a two-year, non-exclusive contract with IBM, is aimed at solution providers that may have never done business with IBM, said Candy Shaughnessy, vice president of channels for IBM SMB services, Somers, N.Y. The agreement includes a way to qualify for financing from IBM to pay for expensive, bundled hardware and software deployments that also can include products from third-party vendors, she said.

The other program is targeted at MSPs. Called Express Managed Services, it provides discounts and longer-term payment options for solution providers that buy IBM's Express line of products for their managed services businesses and MSP customers, said Mike Riegel, IBM's director of managed services.

IBM has identified a chunk of solution providers, which the company dubs regional systems integrators (RSIs), that have never engaged with IBM in developing broad hardware, software and IT services offerings, according to Shaughnessy. The Business Partner Agreement for Collaborative Services is designed to get RSIs more deeply involved with IBM in a direct way -- beyond merely reselling an IBM product every once in a while that gets procured though a distributor, she said.

The Partner Agreement costs eligible RSIs nothing to enter, Shaughnessy said. Participants aren't bound to sell only IBM solutions, and there are no sales quotas. The program also offers RSIs project financing, which is subject to the partner's credit history, and fulfillment of financed software, hardware and services is direct from IBM, not through a distributor, she said.

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"They have the opportunity to finance all or a portion of the solution, even if it doesn't include an IBM component in the financing," Shaughnessy said.

The Express Managed Services program gives MSPs that use or sell IBM's Express products -- which are targeted at businesses with 50 to 1,000 employees -- discounts on multiple Express purchases and up to three years to pay for the products, according to Riegel. The discounts and payment plans are available for six products: Express Desktop Management Services, Express E-mail Recovery Solution, Express Managed Security Services for E-mail Security, Express Managed Security Services for Firewall and VPN, Express Managed Security Services for Web Security, and Express Online Backup for Distributed Servers.

One-, two- and three-year payment plans for Express products are available interest-free, helping MSPs lower their up-front costs, Riegel said. MSPs also save money when buying more than one Express product at a time, he added.

"For example, if you buy E-mail Security, the starting list price is something like $2 per user, per month," Riegel said. "So say if another product costs $4 per user, per month, you're not going to pay $6 for both, you're going to pay $5."